After Vanderbilt punted the ball with a little less than two minutes to go before halftime, Florida linebacker James Houston was called for targeting for a blindside hit on Dare Odeyingbo during the return. Odeyingbo stayed down near the Florida sideline, prompting Mason to come over and check on him. At that point, Mason appeared to get into an expletive-laced verbal altercation with Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and Mullen.
Both benches cleared. As a result, both teams were called for unsportsmanlike conduct, and Florida starting linebacker Vosean Joseph was ejected. Houston also was ejected for targeting.
Joseph initially refused to leave the sideline, fighting Florida assistants as they attempted to lead him to the locker room.
During his halftime interview with ESPN, Mullen declined comment, directing questions to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and SEC director of officials Steve Shaw. Mason said he would comment after the game.
But after the game, Mason and Mullen exchanged a long hug.
Mullen told ESPN’s Tom Luginbill: “Derek and I are really close friends. He’s great. He knows that. He’s doing an amazing job here: You just look at what he’s been able to accomplish going to bowl games, coaching this team, how they play, how they compete. He does an amazing job. He and I are really close friends.
“We’re not gonna get into that publicly at all — Derek is a really close friend of mine — we gotta make sure our sideline is cleaner in that situation. I’m sure he probably thinks the same thing. There’s nothing carrying over from that. Nothing to get into publicly.”
Said Mason: “I talked to Dan at the end of that ball game, and that was just a matter of players down, and their player on the sideline had said something directed at me, and I said something back, and Dan gets mad — that’s how it started. At the end of the day, we’re just trying to make sure we can play the game the right way. Keep the game safe, and make sure everybody walks out of this. It’s a referee’s job to referee. Not ours. I got a lot of respect for Dan. He respects the process. So do I.
Mason also said he did not regret getting emotional with one of his players down.
“Nah, what’s the regret in being emotional?” Mason said. “Football is an emotional game — If you don’t play football emotionally, what are we doing? You see emotions from coaches all the time. That just happened to be one instance.”